The Postman’s Burden

In which The Author is in campaign mood again

I know it’s still four months away, but we’ve already started the official countdown to the elections for the Welsh Assembly. Cerith Griffiths, who fought the Cynon Valley seat at the last general election, has been selected as the Plaid Cymru candidate. The party is making a particular effort to target the Valleys, and we’re one of the constituencies in which which they’re keen to make an impact. With this in mind, the Cynon Valley Plaid Cymru branch has just taken delivery of some eight-page bilingual newspapers.
When I say ‘some’, that’s  a bit of an understatement. We have an electorate of approximately 55,000 – that’s including the villages of Glyncoch and Cilfynydd, which were absorbed into the constituency last time the boundaries were redrawn. A quick bit of mental arithmetic allowed us to guesstimate the number of households.
We agreed that 32,000 was a decent ball-park figure. Given that there are a number of isolated farms dotted around the hillsides, a few blocks of flats which are virtually impregnable to non-residents, and a surprisingly high proportion of empty properties (nearly three thousand, according to one report I read recently), we decided that thirty thousand papers would be more than adequate.
The finished papers were delivered to Ty Gwynfor in Cardiff this week, and Cerith drove down to collect them yesterday.
Well, that was the idea, anyway …
Have you ever seen thirty thousand eight-page newspapers? Even when they’re banded together in batches of two hundred, they take up a hell of a lot of room. They weigh a fair bit, too. In the event, Cerith managed to get eighteen thousand (in other words, ninety bundles) into his car; he decided to quit before his rear suspension did. That wouldn’t been a very nice birthday present, after all.
Last night, at the branch meeting, we sat down and started divvying up the spoils (on paper, anyway). I’ve agreed to do the whole of Trecynon, Robertstown, and the Gadlys, as I did during the last two election campaigns (see ‘Nooks and Crannies‘). David Walters and I were talking about the numbers on the way home last night, and it’s surprising how quickly they add up.
If I did just my street, David’s street, and Cemetery Road (the main road through Trecynon), that would account for nearly two hundred papers. Then there are some sixty doors in Mount Pleasant Street, eighty or so in Harriet Street, and over forty in Meirion Street. Those are just the main routes through the village – I haven’t even started on the side streets yet. Union Street, just around the corner from me, is one of the shortest, but even that has twelve doors.
By the time I’ve got around Robertstown and all around the Gadlys, I estimate that I’ll have gone through the best past of two thousand papers. I’m hoping to make substantial inroads into the area by the weekend. It’s actually not raining in Aberdare today (seemingly for the first time since records began), so I hit the pavement early this morning. After two top-ups, I’ve put out three hundred papers already. Just before 11.00 I decided to have a break and come into town. If it stays fine I might do another hour or so this afternoon. The forecast is pretty decent for tomorrow, so I can press on early and get the bulk of my allocation sorted out in good time.
If the weather stays fine for the weekend, we’re going to tackle Cwmbach mob-handed. That’s definitely not a one-person mission, as I found out last summer when I went in search of old street signs.
Out of interest, I decided to keep a note of how many doors were in each street. I knew they’d quickly add up, of course. It’s not the numbers that surprised me, though. What really surprised me was the apparently haphazard numbering of the houses in my neck of the woods. I can’t say I’d really ever noticed it before, although I knew there were anomalies and oddities all over the place. Gaz’s house, for instance, has an address which puts it in Llewellyn Street. His front gate, on the other hand, is in Iestyn Street. Work that one out! Similarly, there’s an address in Mill Street which is accessed from Ebenezer Street. It makes no sense at all.
Mount Pleasant Street is a mystery, too. The first four houses are numbered as far as 3, and then you jump to 7. (I can only assume that smaller dwellings were knocked into one at some point.) On the other hand, the house next to mine has an A on the end, and so does the one three doors down. What the actual fuck is that all about?
Just a stone’s throw across the back gardens, Mount Pleasant Street goes off at a tangent before resuming its sequence halfway down on the other side. Meanwhile, Ebenezer Street, which leads from Mount Pleasant Street to Mill Street, doesn’t seem to make any sense at all.
The numbering in Meirion Street only makes sense when you look at the old maps. The terraced part was built before the two semi-detached houses (named, not numbered; see ‘A Little Economy‘), and the three – named – bungalows opposite are later additions still. Quite why there should be two houses in a small alleyway above Cynon Cottage remains a mystery.
As for Belle Vue and St John’s Street – well, I gave up trying to make any sense of those when I was a kid. In the event I counted them together and simply bracketed them together in my notebook.
I can’t really complain, because I’m just delivering leaflets through every door, regardless of the address. But try and put yourself in the postman’s shoes for a minute, or the meter reader’s, or the multi-drop parcel delivery guy’s – or the ambulance driver’s. It must be an absolute nightmare for someone who doesn’t know the area intimately. I’ve lived in Trecynon for over thirty years, all told, and I only found out in 2010 where Morgans Court is. (Don’t worry if you don’t know – you haven’t missed anything exciting.)
The Welsh Ambulance Service isn’t the best at navigation anyway, as we proved a couple of years ago. Leighton P. collapsed in the White Lion one night, showing all the signs of a stroke. We rang 999 and quite clearly gave our location and postcode. The pub’s on the main road, for fuck’s sake; it’s pretty hard to miss. The ambulance eventually turned up about half an hour later than estimated, because they’d gone to the Red Lion – in Penderyn, about a ten-mile round trip out of their way. Can you imagine how they’d cope if they had to find an address in the back streets of Trecynon, at night, in the pissing rain? It hardly bears thinking about.
On a lighter note: As a crossword enthusiast, I’ve lost count of the times some pub bore wit has told me the following joke:
‘Here’s a good clue for you: “Postman’s burden.”‘
‘How many letters?’
‘Fuckin’ ‘hundreds!’

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